Vietnamese aviation authorities on Friday suspended and fined two Vietnam Airlines pilots and a flight attendant nearly VND11 million (US$526) for allowing the country's former tourism ambassador to enter the cockpit and pose for pictures during a flight.
This is the first time in the history of Vietnamese aviation that a passenger has been allowed to enter an airplane's cockpit during flight, the authorities say.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) issued the fines after pictures posted online went viral. They show Ly Nha Ky a nationally famous actress and businesswoman posing with the captain and his deputy in the cockpit on a flight from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City on April 11.
According to news website VnExpress, the two pictures showing Ky, 31, in the cockpit were first posted on Ky's personal blog.
Nguyen Trong Thang, CAAV's chief inspector, said captain Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Y was fined VND7 million and had his license to fly suspended for one month for "not following regulations when carrying out duties and threatening aviation security" and "allowing a person to enter the cockpit."
His copilot, Nguyen Xuan Hai, was fined VND3 million and also had his flying license suspended for one month for "not following regulations when carrying out duties and threatening aviation security."
Head flight attendant Lam Quang Tien was fined VND750,000 and had his flight attendant's certificate suspended for one month for "carrying out duties unprofessionally."
But Ky, the celebrity, was not punished because she had received permission from Captain Y to enter the cockpit and therefore was "not at fault," Thang said.
Ky told VnExpress on Friday that she felt sorry for crew members who were punished and that she wished there was some way that she could be held responsible instead.
There has been no civil aviation accident in Vietnam in two decades.
But at the same time, mistakes caused by air traffic controllers still persist and local experts say that to maintain air traffic safety in the country, there is an urgent need for qualitative improvements in the staff and system, and for tougher punishments of violations.
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